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Heart Smart Living
Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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More Bad News for Smokers: Breast Cancer Risk Rises

Quit Smoking Calendar
I am always looking for new angles to use to help my patients to quit smoking. Each year, more than 430,000 Americans die from tobacco-related illness, including heart disease and stroke. Smoking even one cigarette each day raises the heart attack risk by 50 percent, and smoking more than 45 cigarettes daily can increase the risk by up to six-fold (that’s 600 percent).

There is no doubt that the evil weed is highly addictive. In fact, there is very good evidence that it is harder to quit tobacco than it is to quit heroin. Nevertheless, it can be done, but it takes serious motivation, encouragement, and often medical therapy as well.

I find that although heart disease is the number one killer for both women and men, it doesn’t arouse the same fear as a threat of cancer. That is why I was very interested to read the March 1, 2001 edition of the British Medical Journal, which included a report by Dr. Juhua Luo and associates examining the association between smoking and breast cancer risk. The study was an offshoot of the Women’s Health Initiative, which includes almost 80,000 women at 40 different medical centers across the United States.

In women who smoked, and were followed by researchers for 10 years (starting at the age of 50 through 79), the likelihood of a breast cancer diagnosis was 16 percent higher in smokers and nine percent higher in former smokers, when compared to women who had never smoked. Not surprisingly, heavy smokers fared even worse, with a 45 percent higher risk than nonsmokers who also had no exposure to passive tobacco.

Some people still believe that the risk of passive smoke is a myth, despite proof to the contrary. In this study, women exposed to at least 10 years of passive smoke at home (including during childhood) or at work had a 32 percent higher risk for breast cancer.

The impetus to quit differs from one person to the next. Sometimes it is the cost, other times a bad respiratory illness, or perhaps a heart attack provides the defining moment. This study gives one more reason for women, and those who love them, to put out the smokes for good.

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Tags: Risk Factors for Heart Disease , Tobacco

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About the Author


Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.